Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why is working with nonprofit like putting socks on an octopus?

In an interview with an association management executive last week, she said “working with boards is like putting socks on an octopus.”

That reminded me that years ago, James Lee Adams was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying “getting soybean farmers to agree on farm policy is like pushing a wheelbarrow of frogs.  By the time you get one into the wheelbarrow, two others have jumped out.”

Another association executive (me) has often said “why do really smart business people become so stupid when they put on their nonprofit hats?”

So, why is getting boards working in harmony sometimes so difficult?

I’m not suggesting boards should avoid debate or thorough discussion on key topics.  I am suggesting that organizations need a process on how boards reach decisions.  And, what happens after the board decides on a policy or action ... especially if a small minority of the board disagrees with the final action.

As you think about your boards or those you have worked with, what is your experience?  What “crazy quotes” have you used or seen about working with nonprofit boards?  Please add them to the comments section of this blog.  Thanks.

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